Sync Licensing for Indie Musicians

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There are a lot of musicians who dream of scoring a sync license. I mean, who wouldn’t want their music on the big screen in front of tons of people? But once you start seriously looking into it, you discover just how much there is to learn, especially if you’re going at it as an independent artist.

If you’re ready to start pursuing sync placements for your music, you want to make sure you understand the copyright behind the sync license first, and that is what this article is all about.

After you master the copyright side of it, you can take the next step towards getting a sync license for your music by joining this free DIY Music Licensing Workshop. Kevin Breuner from CD Baby and I will be going through tips for getting your music in front of music supervisors, micro sync opportunities for indie musicians, and a whole lot more, so be sure to sign up!

What is a Sync License?

When you write or record music you automatically get copyright protection and are granted exclusive rights. No one else can use that music unless you give them permission. If you do choose to allow someone to use your music, you’re giving them a license.

Why would you want to give someone a license? By allowing someone else to use your music, you’re reaching a new audience that you probably wouldn’t have been able to reach on your own. Simply getting your music in front of new people can be enough to grow your fanbase. On top of that, licensing your music is a great way to make some extra revenue.

A sync license gives someone permission to synchronize your music with some kind of visual medium like TV shows, advertisements, movies, or video games.

It’s important to remember that when you grant someone a sync license, you are not giving your rights to that song away. You are basically renting the rights to them for that specific use. Ultimately, you own the copyright and you can use that song elsewhere or even license it for a different movie or advertisement if you should choose.

Negotiating Your Sync License

To understand how sync licenses are negotiated, we have to go a little deeper. There are actually two different kinds of copyright. The “composition” copyright protects the song, or the melody and lyrics, and is usually owned by the songwriter. The “sound recording” copyright protects the recording of the song, or the master, and is usually owned by the performing artist. As an indie artist, if you write and record your songs, you end up with two different copyrights for each song.

If someone wants to use your song in a movie, they need permission to use both copyrights.

With that in mind, indie artists actually have a distinct advantage in the world of sync licensing. If you own both copyrights – without any label or publisher involvement – sync deals can be pretty straightforward to negotiate. And for that reason, music supervisors will often specifically seek out indie artists.

On the other hand, if there is a songwriter, their publisher, a recording artist and their label, a lot more people are involved in the negotiation. If just one of those parties decide they don’t want to grant the license, the entire license falls through.

On top of that, there is no standard payment for a sync license. The rates are negotiated on a case by case basis and it will depend on the production’s budget, your influence as an artist and negotiator, and how important it is to have that particular song.

Some artists will license their music for free just to get the exposure (but we wouldn’t recommend that), while other artists get tens of thousands of dollars for a single sync license. There is a lot of art to the negotiation of a sync deal, which we will explore more in the free DIY Music Licensing Workshop.


Alright, now that you have a basic understanding of what a sync is all about, it’s time to learn more about actually finding placements for your music in movies, TV, games, and YouTube. Join CD Baby’s Kevin Breuner and I in a free DIY Music Licensing Workshop to learn how to break into licensing as an indie artist.

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